Our Two-Tiered Citizenship; That's You on the Bottom
Corporations are free to lobby against your interests – and to fire you if you fight back.
The short suspension of MSNBC on-air personality Keith Olberman is over. He was suspended for making candidate donations without the permission of his MSNBC boss, Phil Griffin. The public reaction to the Olberman suspension was nuclear, and the NBC walk back was lickety-split. But during his victory lap (on last Tuesday’s Countdown,) Olberman made one important mistake – he called NBC’s donation rule “probably not legal.”
GE, owners of MSNBC donated over $1.5 million politicians on both sides of the aisle. There may be more, but the Supreme Court recently ruled that we no longer have a right to know. The Court says its Citizens United ruling merely puts corporations on equal footing with citizens — a nutty goal even if that were the extent of it. But it does much more.
At first blush Olberman’s point might have seemed obvious. What right does an employer have to require you to disclose your private political donations, “in advance” or afterward? And a requirement for “permission” seems to fly in the face of the very notion of free expression, doesn’t it?
But that’s not how the law sees it. Well-settled law allows your employer to make most any rule it wants, thanks to a doctrine called “At-Will Employment.” In thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia, employers are free to fire any employee whose politics differs from the company line. Under At-Will, It is perfectly legal to terminate your employment if your employer considers you ugly or doesn’t like your lipstick. An employer can dictate which side you must part your hair, and fire you if you don’t comply. An employer can fire you just before you like to watch Keith Olberman. It’s perfectly legal.
This principle of law (combined with the Supreme Court decision) leads to an overwhelming advantage for corporations — they both have free speech and have a free right to stifle others. Corporations are effectively granted superior status, simply because they can tell you to “shut up or be fired.”Continued on the next page